Each month we showcase a different spice. I'll be writing up some information about the spice and its over to you to come up with your tips, tricks or recipes using the spice. There is a prize for the most interesting idea or recipe (to be posted anywhere in the world, customs permitting). Just add your ideas to this thread or if you have a recipe, then post it as a new thread and tag it ’peppercorn' and 'spice challenge'. So, as you already realised, this month, the featured spice is pepper! Deadline for entries midday 4th Feb. 2018 (GMT). Pepper - the Info: Cultivation The name pepper comes from the Sanskrit word pippali meaning berry. Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is a perennial vine native to the Malabar coast of India. Hindu colonists are thought to have taken pepper to Java from where it spread throughout the far east. It also grows in Africa, the South Sea Islands and Brazil. When harvested for black pepper, the berries are green. The berries are then dried to become the the familiar black peppercorns. White pepper is harvested when the berries are red and soaked to remove the casing, then dried. Green peppercorns are harvested when green and under-ripe and may be sold fresh, dried or more commonly brined. There are many types of peppercorns (both black, white and green). Black types include Tellicherry, Brazilian, Lampong. Vietnamese, Madagascan and Kampot. White varieties include Muntock, Sarawck, Penja White, Talamanca Del Caribe. Long peppers are related to Piper nigrum and also belong to the Piperaceae family. There are two types of long pepper Piper retrofractum, native to Java, Indonesia and Piper longum which is indigenous to India. You are most likely to be able to find the Indonesian type. They look like long catkins and are harvested just before ripening and then dried. Aroma and flavour Black pepper has an earthy, rich aroma and pungent hot taste. White pepper is less earthy with citrus overtones. Some say it has a slightly fermented taste which comes from soaking to remove the red skins. Green peppercorns taste fresh and tart, particularly when brined. Red peppercorns are left to fully ripen on the vine. It is almost impossible to find true red peppercorns as they lose their colour when dried. Apparently they are now obtainable freeze dried but I have yet to find any and have never tasted them! Long peppers have has a warm musky aroma with a floral, spicy, peppery punch that builds slowly. I adore this pepper as it is so complex in flavour. Peppers that aren’t really peppers (but that are included in the challenge). Pink Peppercorns: These aren’t actually peppercorns at all, but the dried berry of a small mastic tree related to a rose bush that comes from a South America. Though they still have a peppery bite, they also have fruity floral note. They are commonly labelled red peppercorns and if a recipe list red peppercorns you can safely assume that it means pink peppercorns. See above regarding true red peppercorns. Zechuan peppercorns: Szechuan (Sichuan) peppercorns are berries from the Prickly Ash tree native to China. It is widely grown and consumed in Asia. The berries are air-dried rust-colored berries. Szechuan peppercorns have an aromatic and resinous flavor that leaves the lips tingly and slightly numb when tasted directly followed by a moderate heat that lingers. Culinary use Pepper is a versatile spice used worldwide in many types of savoury dishes and as a table condiment. It can also be used in sweet recipes such as in fruitcakes and gingerbread and can be served as a light seasoning with fruit. I’ve used pepper with strawberries and pineapple, for example. Most cooking guides suggest white pepper is milder and best used with white foods such as mashed potato and creamy sauces. I really disagree with this point of view! White pepper has a rather bad press because ground white pepper was the only kind you used to get in cafes and many domestic kitchens in the UK. That was until the 70’s, when Delia Smith told us all to use ‘freshly ground black pepper’ instead. I think white pepper has a unique flavour which is quite underrated. I use it in all kinds of dishes, such as curry. In large quantities in the latter! Szechuan peppercorns are vital component in many Chinese and Japanese dishes and of course, Szechuan sauce can be bought ready-made. Pink peppercorns are very versatile and match well with fish and meat as well as being a useful ingredient in pickles. Their fragrant taste could also be used to effect in sweet dishes. So its over to you. How do you use peppercorns? Tell us your ideas, tips and recipes for using this spice. Deadline for entries is midday 4th Feb 2018 (GMT).